Skip to main content

Language: English / Gàidhlig

Chamber and committees

Meeting of the Parliament

Meeting date: Thursday, June 29, 2023


Highly Protected Marine Areas

The Presiding Officer (Alison Johnstone)

The next item of business is a statement by Màiri McAllan on highly protected marine areas. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of her statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition (Màiri McAllan)

I begin with a reminder of why we are discussing this subject: the world’s ecosystems are rapidly degrading. That is not a remote or abstract problem; it is real, it is happening now and we cannot continue ignoring what is in front of us.

The marine heatwave that was declared in the North Sea last week, which was labelled “extreme” by scientists, clearly shows that the impacts of the global climate emergency are already being felt here, on our shores. It is clearer than ever that we are in the midst of a nature and climate crisis. We must be prepared to take action commensurate with the scale of that challenge, but we must do so via a fair and just transition that empowers our people.

I will be clear about why this Government believes that change is required. The latest assessment under the United Kingdom marine strategy indicated that we have failed to achieve 11 of the 15 indicators of good environmental status in our seas. Evidence presented in “Scotland’s 2020 Marine Assessment: Headlines and Next Steps” shows an accelerating rate of change due to human activity. Nine out of 21 marine regions in Scotland have sea-floor habitats that are predicted to be in “poor condition” across more than half of their area. Seabirds are also in trouble, with populations of surface-feeding birds, such as the kittiwake, in decline.

Failure to safeguard and improve the resilience of Scotland’s marine ecosystems to a changing climate threatens the very basis on which our marine industries and coastal communities are built.

The case for enhanced marine protection is therefore clear and one that all parties here agree on—or at least they did at election time. We know that protecting our marine ecosystems protects and sustains the ecosystem services that livelihoods and communities rely on. I hope that we can all agree on that. That is why we are committed to working with coastal communities, fishers, aquaculture, tourism and all affected sectors to enhance marine protection in Scotland for the benefit of all.

There has, understandably, been considerable debate about highly protected marine areas, and I thank all members, stakeholders and members of the public who have contributed so robustly to the early part of that debate. I record my thanks for the many constructive conversations that I have had with members from all parties in recent weeks, and for those with fishing representatives, local authorities, youth representatives and environmental campaigners, including my colleagues in the Scottish Greens. Highly protected marine areas are part of the Bute house agreement, and I welcome the constructive engagement that I have had with the Green group as we have developed our thinking on this critical issue.

I have listened intently and am in no doubt about the strong views both for and against. However, if there has been one consistent point of consensus it is that doing nothing is not an option. In fact, we know from a recent Government-funded survey that 85 per cent of Scottish respondents consider protecting the marine environment to be important to them.

I emphasise that I recognise the scale of what highly protected marine areas represent. We are at the drawing board on the issue, and I have—from the very beginning of the process—invited Scotland’s communities to the drawing board with us. That is why I was keen that we consulted so broadly and as early in the process as possible, with no predetermined ideas about sites. We are currently analysing the thousands of responses to that consultation and I will, of course, give due consideration to those.

A full response to the consultation and information on the next steps will be published after summer recess. However, I committed to updating Parliament on the matter as soon as I possibly could, so, ahead of a fuller update after summer, I would like to share an initial one today.

A particular concern that has been raised with me—notably by both those who support the establishment of HPMAs and those who do not—is that implementation of the proposal in the proposed timeframe could risk limiting our aspirations for genuine collaboration with communities, which, both to me and to the Government, is absolutely integral to Scotland’s approach to a fair and just transition. Therefore, although, for the reasons that I have stated, we remain firmly committed to the outcome of enhancing marine protection, I can confirm that the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed. That means that we will no longer seek to implement HPMAs across 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas by 2026.

Over the summer, as part of our on-going dialogue with all those with an interest in protecting Scotland’s seas, we will develop a new pathway and a timetable for our work. Those will be in line with our draft biodiversity strategy and its ambition for Scotland to be nature positive by 2030, and they will recognise that the European Union has proposed a target of having enhanced marine protection in at least 10 per cent of its seas by 2030.

Importantly, I will ensure that communities across Scotland are central to the process. We know that there is a plethora of innovative ideas on how we can improve protection, and that is exactly what I want to hear more of, including from people such as inshore fishermen who recognise the issue’s importance to their livelihoods.

It is very important to me that people who will be affected by policies are engaged in their development. The viability of coastal and island communities matters greatly to this Government, as do the matters of cultural importance that have come to the fore of the debate.

As I have said a number of times, our seas must remain a source of economic and social prosperity for our nation. I therefore speak directly to everyone in our coastal and island communities, including those who have expressed concerns to date, when I say that I want them to help to shape the future of Scotland’s seas. As I—and, indeed, the First Minister—have said many times, communities must be meaningfully involved. Today, I am making it clear that that will happen.

In that regard, and on an immediate and on-going basis, the Government remains committed to supporting any group that wishes to pursue community-led marine protection in its local area. We have already seen successful initiatives in Arran and in St Abbs and Eyemouth. I will do everything that I can in this session of Parliament to support those communities that want to follow their shining examples—examples that we know can work to improve the state of the local marine environment.

Although I have confirmed today that the HPMA policy as consulted on will not be taken forward, investing in ocean health requires a range of interventions across all our seas that we must continue to progress as a matter of urgency. Scotland’s existing marine protected area network covers around 37 per cent of our seas, but individual sites must be effectively managed if they are to achieve their objectives, and we must also do more to safeguard our particularly vulnerable species and habitats.

We have an on-going programme of work to implement fisheries management measures in existing MPAs where they are yet to be introduced, and to protect some of the most vulnerable priority marine features outside the MPA network. Those measures were delayed by Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we are committed to putting them in place as soon as possible, following due process, and I welcome the fishing industry’s support in moving them forward.

I can confirm that, after the summer recess, we will consult on proposals for fisheries management measures in offshore MPAs beyond 12 nautical miles. The options to be consulted on have been the subject of extensive engagement over many years with all stakeholders.

Inshore MPAs and priority marine features also require fisheries management measures. However, the complexity of the inshore area and the number of sites have meant that progress has been slower than was hoped—therefore, consultation on inshore measures will take place in 2024.

During the summer, my colleague Mairi Gougeon intends to consult on the potential closure of sand eel fisheries in Scottish waters. That is a crucial step in safeguarding an important food source for many species, and it could aid the long-term sustainability and resilience of marine ecosystems.

All that vital work on marine protection must, and will, proceed with pace. It does so as this Government continues to support Scotland’s fishing industry, not least through the £14 million marine fund Scotland, which the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands recently launched the third round of. I take the opportunity to thank all the stakeholders with whom Mairi Gougeon and I have worked across all those matters.

I began the statement by outlining our commitment to addressing the twin crises of climate change and nature loss. Our “Blue Economy Vision for Scotland” recognises that our economy and society “are embedded within nature”, and not external to it. The vision looks to move us beyond traditional narratives of choosing between ocean protection and production, recognising that the latter cannot be achieved without the former.

I will publish more on our next steps after the summer, and we will, of course, keep Parliament up to date, but I hope that what I have stated today demonstrates that I am listening and that I will continue to listen.

There has been a lot of heat in the debate about HPMAs, and I hope that my commitment to develop a new pathway with all those who will join me round the table will allow a great deal less heat, and more light, into discussion of the matter. I am clear that both enhanced marine protection and a whole-community approach is required.

In my foreword to the recent “Scottish Highly Protected Marine Areas Consultation Paper”, I said:

“I am determined that those who may be affected by these proposals are involved from the outset ... That is why I want to hear what you think.”

I went on to say:

“I want to take on board your concerns and your ideas.”

While I continue my meetings across Scotland over the summer, and as my officials and I finalise our analysis of the consultation responses, I trust that it is clear that I am listening and that I will continue to listen as we take forward the imperative of marine protection.

The Presiding Officer

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues raised in her statement. I intend to allow around 20 minutes for questions, after which we will move to the next item of business. I would be grateful if all members who wish to put a question were to press their request-to-speak button now.

Rachael Hamilton (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con)

Over the past few months, my Scottish Conservative colleagues and I have been engaging extensively with fishermen and industry representatives the length and breadth of Scotland’s coastal communities in order to hear their concerns. Never before in my role as rural spokesperson for my party have I come across a policy that is so universally opposed by an industry and by the communities that that industry supports.

Today’s statement has abjectly failed to address the concerns of our industry. Instead of listening to fishing communities, the Scottish Government is rehashing its plans based on what the EU tells it to do. Instead of backing down, this Government is doubling down on its plans to ban fishing in almost 50 per cent of Scottish waters.

It is the same policy with a new date—a Bute house fudge. Cabinet secretary, when will the Scottish Government finally listen to the concerns of the people whom it is supposed to serve, and drop these community-wrecking plans?

Màiri McAllan

I will leave it up to Rachael Hamilton, but I suspect that she will have to correct the record at some point on some of the assertions that she has just made.

It is deeply ironic, and really disappointing, that she is resorting to politicking. It is ironic because—as I have said a number of times—she stood on a Conservative party manifesto with a commitment to highly protected marine areas, and her colleagues in the UK Government are taking forward highly protected marine areas in England. Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has described highly protected marine areas as a “vital” way forward.

I have been clear from the beginning that this Government believes, and is utterly convinced, that we must take forward enhanced marine protection in Scotland’s waters. Equally, however, we are committed to doing so by a process in which communities can have faith and that represents fairness and justice, and that is exactly what we will continue to take forward.

Before I move to Ms Grant, I ask that the temptation to make comments that can be audible is resisted.

Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab)

I welcome the statement. I hope that it represents a genuine change of heart and signals a very different working relationship with our fishing communities. The people whose lives depend on our seas are ideally placed to make policy that protects our marine environment. What will that new engagement look like, and how will it include all those who are affected by the changes?

In addition, can the cabinet secretary assure me that any changes to the management of existing marine protected areas will be carried out after full consultation with coastal communities, and will she assure members that this is not simply HPMAs by the back door?

Finally, if communities want to instigate areas of protection, how will they do that, given that, in the past, the process has taken decades?

Màiri McAllan

Rhoda Grant mentioned the relationship between the Scottish Government and the fishing industry. I ask her not to be under any misapprehension that we have engaged on the issue in the absence of others. Mairi Gougeon and I, and our officials, have a strong relationship with Scotland’s fishing industry. We engage with it on a range of matters. We have engaged with it on marine protection for a number of years—as I referred to in my statement, with regard to the MPA process. I thank it for that, and I thank Scotland’s marine lobby equally.

I will not pre-empt the outcome of the conversations that I will continue to have over the summer, nor will I pre-empt the final outcome of the consultation process. I remain open-minded as to what that new approach to community engagement will look like. However, if Rhoda Grant or other members have ideas on how that might best be done, I will welcome those.

Alasdair Allan (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP)

The news that the Government will not seek to progress the HPMA proposals represents a very welcome change of tack, which will be greeted with relief along the west coast. Fishers have more at stake than anyone in ensuring that our seas are sustainable, so what can the Government now do to ensure that fishing communities are at the heart of future fishing policy?

Màiri McAllan

Dr Allan is absolutely right. Our marine sectors, including the fishing industry across the country, depend on a healthy marine environment. Fishers understand how important that is, and they must have their say. I want the voices of people from coastal and island communities to shape their own future for their benefit. As I have mentioned, therefore, I intend to establish a dialogue on the benefits of enhancing marine protection that allows that to happen. The process must be democratic and must reflect the scale of the ambition of protecting Scotland’s seas in the way that the nature crisis demands of us.

I thank Dr Allan for his engagement with me on the issue, including his setting up of a very helpful meeting between me, him and representatives of the Western Isles Council.

Finlay Carson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con)

I was minded to welcome the apparent scrapping of HPMAs, but the statement is no more than a last-minute effort to pacify the rebels on the Government’s back benches as they head off on their summer holidays.

The statement has continued the mention of the unresearched and arbitrary 10 per cent target. Will the minister apologise to our fishers and coastal communities for the worry and distress that she has caused them over the past few months, and will she join me in condemning the Green MSP Ross Greer and his ridiculous attack on the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and Salmon Scotland—or is his voice the true voice of the Green-Scottish National Party unholy alliance and misguided policies, the only outcome of which would be their own version of the rural, island and Highland clearances?

Màiri McAllan

I hope that my conduct and contributions on this matter in the chamber have demonstrated how seriously I have always taken it. I understand the absolute imperative of enhancing the protection of our oceans and, equally, the need to do so in a way that is acceptable to, works for and benefits the people who live in our coastal and island communities throughout Scotland. I take that exceptionally seriously and, regardless of the politicking from the Conservative Party, will continue to do so.

This goes to the core of the issue. We are in an emergency situation of climate and nature degradation. As António Guterres, the United Nations secretary general, said, that requires of us

“everything, everywhere, all at once.”

That is the challenge that the Scottish Government has. I am dedicated to doing that, but I am also dedicated to fairness, and I hope that what I have set out today makes that clear.

Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP)

It is disappointing that, for some members, no compromise on the issue appears to be acceptable. Enhancing marine protection will safeguard invaluable marine habitats and key fish stocks, specifically by curtailing the most destructive human activities, such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling. What steps will the cabinet secretary take to engage with communities that wish to strengthen marine biodiversity, emulate the success of the Lamlash Bay no-take zone in my constituency and provide further protection for Scotland’s inshore waters? Over what timescale will that take place?

Màiri McAllan

I thank Kenneth Gibson for his very robust support of proposals for enhanced marine protection. I will continue to liaise with him on the matter in order to hear his views.

Kenneth Gibson represents an area in which there is an excellent example of what community-led marine protection can look like in Scotland. The Lamlash Bay no-take zone shows us the benefits that can be had for the marine environment and the people who rely on it.

I was very pleased to visit the Community of Arran Seabed Trust—COAST—recently and to help to launch its new RV COAST Explorer vessel. That is a true example of environmental protection and community empowerment, and I will take COAST’s example into the next stages of developing the process.

As I said in my response to Rhoda Grant’s question, I cannot pre-empt the outcome of my consultation analysis or, indeed, the conversations that I will have over the summer. However, I will, as I have done today, seek to update Parliament as soon as I can on the path forward.

Mercedes Villalba (North East Scotland) (Lab)

The status quo in Scotland’s waters is not working. Last week, the Court of Session ruled that ministers unlawfully ignored the national marine plan when deciding on fishing licence policies and, after today’s statement, it is clear that we are still no closer to a coherent marine spatial planning process. In the meantime, our waters and everyone and everything that relies on them are being squeezed. Can the minister confirm whether the Scottish Government is committed to creating a cohesive spatial plan for our seas in this parliamentary session?

Màiri McAllan

There appears to be a real conflict in Scottish Labour’s position. Mercedes Villalba seems to reflect and remember the manifesto that she stood on, which committed not to HPMAs covering 10 per cent of our seas, as we have consulted on, but to double that, whereas her colleague Rhoda Grant seems to have entirely forgotten that.

In my statement, I mentioned the suite of other actions that we will continue to take forward, not least management measures in the MPA network, the protection of priority marine features and our work on the sand eel fishery. I hope that some of the space that the statement will create in relation to marine protected areas will allow us to progress those matters.

Mercedes Villalba mentioned the need to manage shared space. We have begun, and are in the very early days of, the next national marine plan. I expect that matters relating to shared space and how best to share space will feature heavily in the development of that plan.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the announcement, which will certainly alleviate Galloway fishers’ concerns and will be welcomed by fishing communities across Dumfries and Galloway. As the Scottish Government continues its plans to enhance marine protections for the environment, can the cabinet secretary reiterate how the voices of fishers, such as those in Galloway, are at the centre of those discussions? Can she confirm that she will meet Galloway fishers at the earliest opportunity so that their voices can be heard from the outset of any future proposals?

Màiri McAllan

The gist of what I am saying today is that I intend to take time to gather views from people throughout Scotland on how we can improve the state of our marine environment in a way that ensures that we rise to what is required of us by way of conservation and, equally, serves Scotland’s people. I know that there are innovative ideas out there about how we can do that. They are exactly what I want to hear more of, including from those whom Emma Harper represents. I am finalising the meetings that I am seeking to have over the summer, and I will certainly consider her approach regarding the Galloway fisherpeople.

Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (LD)

Like Alasdair Allan, I warmly welcome the Government’s retreat from the arbitrary approach to HPMAs, which has caused real alarm in the island communities that we represent. Of course fishers recognise the importance of marine protection but, given that less than 10 per cent of the existing MPA network has been monitored over the past five years, how does the cabinet secretary plan to resource the monitoring and management of MPAs? Can she say more about the way in which the engagement with island and coastal communities will take place?

Màiri McAllan

I thank Liam McArthur for his question, although my view is that 10 per cent is not an arbitrary figure—10 per cent mirrors the level of strict protection that the EU is currently seeking to develop. I will correct this if I am wrong, but I think that France, Germany and Denmark are considering strict protection of 10 per cent.

As I tried to set out in my statement, I understand that both those who opposed HPMAs and those who supported them were worried that the coincidence of an ambitious 10 per cent within the timeframe could limit the opportunity for the robust community engagement that I want to see—as do they.

That and other questions about moving forward with the MPA network—as Liam McArthur says—are exactly what I am taking into my dialogue over the summer. I will update the Parliament on the fuller details once I have decided on the way forward.

Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP)

Last week I met my constituent Willie Kennedy, who is chair of the Scottish Sea Angling Conservation Network. He painted a pretty distressing picture of the decline of our inshore waters of the Clyde, due to destructive trawling since the removal of the three-mile limit in 1984. He spoke of his organisation’s desire for robust protection measures and a just transition for the Clyde fleet.

How can enhanced marine protection support the recovery of the Clyde sea bed and the protection and promotion of the interests of our local communities, sea anglers and the low-impact commercial fishing sector?

Màiri McAllan

I thank Ruth Maguire for her question. I might be hearing cries of “Nonsense” from Tory members, but scientific evidence from temperate locations around the world suggests that enhanced marine protection delivers greater conservation—[Interruption.]

Could you give me a moment, cabinet secretary?

Mr Carson, I can hear you rather too clearly. I would be grateful if you could allow the cabinet secretary to respond.

Màiri McAllan

As I was going on to say, enhanced marine protection can lead to a wider range of sea floor species, larger populations and increased resilience to disturbance. We have studies that show that from around the world, including those from California and New Zealand. In particular, they show the benefits of spillover from highly protected areas—greater species abundance in and around highly protected marine areas is clearly advantageous to those who make their living from the seas. I have mentioned studies such as those in Lamlash Bay, which have shown that commercially important species such as the king scallop and the lobster are more numerous, are older and are larger, following protection.

If I have one message from today’s update, it is that the position that was consulted on is no longer being progressed, but the Government goes into our conversation about the process with a clear principle that enhanced marine protection is required and will be implemented.

Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I welcome the constructive approach being taken to protect our marine environment and fish stocks for current and future generations. The new timeframe will allow genuine partnership working with communities to deliver enhanced protection, and it will help us to align with the EU.

In the meantime, community-led marine reserves such as Lamlash Bay could lead the way, as we have heard today. What will the cabinet secretary do to encourage more coastal communities to come forward, ensuring that all voices are heard, such as those of people working in tourism, in conservation and with young people, as well as those from all parts of the fishing industry?

Màiri McAllan

I thank Ariane Burgess for her question and, indeed, for her engagement with me on this matter. She has touched on how willingly communities feel able to come forward. As I have said, I think that there has been more heat than light in this debate, and a toxicity has surrounded it. I hope that I am creating the breathing space today for everybody who is interested to come back round the table and find a way forward.

On my point about encouraging communities to come forward, I think that there was a reluctance to come forward, amid the toxicity, among those who probably supported HPMAs or who would like to have one in their community. They perhaps did not feel that they could come forward. I want to take the heat out of the debate and to involve everybody with an interest. I will encourage and support any community that wants to follow the Lamlash example in seeking to develop such an approach locally.

Edward Mountain (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

I remind the chamber of my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a joint proprietor of an inshore fishery for migratory fish.

The statement is partially about protection, but a huge amount of it is about political deflection. Only this morning, I was reminded that the HPMA process has created confusion and anger across all coastal communities. There has been a lack of transparency and accountability, which featured as part of a recent Court of Session ruling on inshore fisheries and fishing licences. My question is simple: in 2018, recommendation 53 in the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee’s report on salmon farming recommended moving salmon farms from inshore areas further out to sea to ensure that they did less damage to the coast. Will the cabinet secretary ensure that that is part of the process and that she does not forget that when she is taking the process forward?

Màiri McAllan

Political deflection is all that we get from the Conservatives, I am afraid.

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands and I are taking forward work on some of the points that Edward Mountain raised and on aquaculture more generally through our Scottish aquaculture council, which is proving to be an excellent forum to discuss and exchange ideas and proposals for the sustainable future of aquaculture in Scotland. We will continue to do that. Equally, I want to bring everyone around the table in this process, including Edward Mountain and MSPs from across the chamber. If Mr Mountain has ideas about changes to the aquaculture industry in Scotland, he is always welcome to bring them to me or Mairi Gougeon, or to be part of the dialogue on the future of HPMAs.

Karen Adam (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP)

I thank the cabinet secretary for her constructive dialogue and for taking the time to listen to the concerns of the coastal communities and the fishers I represent. Fishers are well aware of the need to safeguard the health of our seas, because they rely on it for their livelihoods as well as our food security. They bring intergenerational knowledge and experience to the table. How will fishers be able to feed their wealth of knowledge into any future discussions on enhancing marine protections as we continue to protect our marine environment, as well as our world-renowned, vital food source?

Màiri McAllan

Co-management is at the heart of how we manage fisheries in Scotland. As I hope I have made clear in my statement, it will be part of how we take forward a pathway on enhanced marine protection. Equally, fishermen can feed into discussions on general marine matters through established forums in Scotland, including the fisheries management and conservation group.

In a previous answer, I mentioned that the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands and I, along with our officials, regularly work with the fishing industry. The Scottish Government has done so for years on quota, financial and emotional support in difficult times and marine protection through the MPA network. Interestingly, one of the things that has been raised with me in this process is that there is a great deal of faith in the MPA process and the means by which management measures are taken forward through it. We are always learning; this is an iterative process. That is what we face as we try to live up to what the climate and nature emergency demands of us.

Jamie Halcro Johnston (Highlands and Islands) (Con)

In claiming to take the Government’s plans back to the drawing board, the cabinet secretary says that there will now be dialogue with marine stakeholders and that communities will be central to that process. I am at a loss to know why that was not the approach from the very start. The cabinet secretary said that HPMAs were in the Bute house agreement. Will she be honest with the chamber: is this a genuine U-turn from the Scottish Government—albeit one that has been forced by anger in local communities, opposition from across the chamber and the threat of rebellion from SNP back benchers—or, given that the Greens seem to be happy with the new approach, is it just a sleight of hand, and do Scotland’s coastal and fishing communities still have a lot to be worried about regarding the SNP-Green Government’s intentions?

Màiri McAllan

The position is not as it has been characterised by Jamie Halcro Johnston. I have been clear from the start that I always understood the ambition that our proposals represented. That is why the Government was clear from the beginning that we wanted to hear views and to have Scotland’s communities, industry and local authorities help us to shape the process by which we deliver enhanced marine protection.

I am glad that Jamie Halcro Johnston has given me the opportunity to demonstrate how much engagement—not least the early and broad consultation—has already been part of the development of the process. We held some 20 meetings with stakeholders—[Interruption.]

Mr Halcro Johnston, you have put your question. I would be grateful if the cabinet secretary could respond.

Màiri McAllan

In advance of consulting, we held some 20 meetings with key stakeholders to take their views on what could be involved. We held meetings during the consultation, principally to assist anybody who wanted to complete it to do so.

Since the consultation has closed, I have discussed matters with fishing representatives in Troon and with Western Isles Council representatives; I have met the Community of Arran Seabed Trust in Arran; I have spoken with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation; I have met Scottish Environment LINK; and I have met representatives of the Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust. I will continue to engage with the spectrum of interests as we deliver the imperative of marine protection.

That concludes the ministerial statement.